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Ludlow Schools Leaders "Heartbroken" Over Return to Virtual Learning

Sixth grade students at Mary A. Goetz Elementary School in Ludlow were near tears when Governor And Beshear announced that in-person learning would cease again as part of the state's effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Principal Jason Steffen was in the classroom at the time.

"I am completely deflated," Steffen said at last week's school board meeting. "For the last few weeks we had been getting more and more kids switching from virtual to in-person. The parents want their kids in school. We were starting to really make some headway. The kids were happier.

"But we have to play the hand we're dealt."

"I am absolutely heartbroken," said Steffen.

Ludlow High School principal Travis Caudill agreed.   

Both principals stated that this switch to virtual learning is very hard on the students as well as the families, and they have to stay on top of all the students to make sure they are at least participating and not giving up.

Steffen related that the first email he received after the governor's order was from a family who have three very young children in school and a baby at home. He said they decided to withdraw, even though they love the school, because with their jobs, they cannot keep up the pace of the schoolwork with the young ones. 

They have decided to try and homeschooling so they at least have a shot of teaching the children something and keeping their jobs.  

Steffen said he knows where they are coming from because he has a kindergartner, and balancing the school schedule and the work schedule is sometimes impossible, he said.

Superintendent Michael Borchers reiterated that Beshear's order would allow for elementary students to return to the classroom by December 7 if the county's COVID numbers return to below "red zone" status, meaning fewer than 25 cases per day per 100,000 people.

But, he said, right now, that doesn't look likely.

In the meantime, Ludlow Independent Schools added an extra day of online instruction on Fridays, and students will attend classes in morning and afternoon modules.  

The students will also be able to have some one-on-one instruction if they really need it.  

Superintendent Borchers also said mental health specialists will be on hand to work with students in person, socially distanced, on a one-to-one basis.

School board members asked questions of the principals about distance learning last spring, which had poor results among some of the student population. Caudill said that his staff would conduct sessions to hold students accountable, but still show compassion. 

He acknowledged that time management and organization were major problems for the students, and having them in 400 different places is very hard to keep track of.  However, he said they have learned from the spring, and he feels they are better equipped to keep track of each student this time.

Nevertheless, board member Kym King said prices will be paid because of COVID's impact on education.

Borchers praised his team for their work and dedication to making this work.

-Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

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